Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

by Bear Wade

You Are In The One You Eat
John 6:24-35
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13)
Analysis by James Squire and Ed Schroeder

24So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.


DIAGNOSIS: Living on Moses-bread

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – Confused About Bread Alternatives
Jesus is trying to relate in a radically new way to people who insist on viewing their world according to the traditions that they grew up with. He does signs for them, but not the kind they are looking for. They do like getting fed by Jesus, but they don’t understand the feeding the way Jesus intended it. They see this as Jesus’ problem, but Jesus sees it as their prob lem. From the vantage point of his critics, Jesus does not seem to be playing by the “Torah” rulebook. In fact, his behavior just makes them-and us, too-downright uncomfortable. Not only does he give us bread without letting us work for it, he puts down our traditional “Judeo-Christian work ethic,” saying that it is no way to attain eternal life. He is like the family friend who adamantly refuses payment for tutoring your son. It just doesn’t feel right; in fact, it offends you in a way. It is times like these especially, when we insist on favoring the Law’s focus on “doing,” which we learned from Moses.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – Preferring Moses-bread to Jesus-bread
We insist on Moses-style bread because we trust Moses; we grew up with Moses, or any number of other familiar authority figures in our lives. These spiritual figures taught us not to be freeloaders, not to live off of others, but to earn our own way. It was only respectable, and it was godly, in a way. We have come to know the rules of life, and we feel comfortable with them because they are predictable and because they make good common sense. Furthermore, we feel justified in expecting others to behave the same way, if we know that we too respect the rules. Trust is given to those who earn it according to this “Judeo-Christian ethic,” and anyone who sneers at such a standard is to be rejected, including Jesus who just happens to be the Son of God, given by the Father in heaven for us, free of charge. The truth is, we are offended by such a gift because we don’t trust the giver. We don’t trust the giver, especially when what he gives is himself, because the way he gives it breaks all the rules we trust in, and invites us to mistrust our Moses, whom we revere. But Moses-bread is often fickle; people often do not get what they earn because someone else is too powerful for the “Judeo-Christian ethic” to do its job. Is it really any wonder? As laudable as that work ethic is, the bottom line is that the only reason we do what is right is because we have to in order to get what we want. With selfish motives at the helm, it should not surprise us in the least that somewhere along the way the whole system gets corrupted.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – Perishing on Moses-bread
And yet, we cannot dispute Jesus verdict about our Moses-bread: it is perishable. Indeed that verdict rubs salt in our wounds. We will always be hungry for our Moses-bread, will always need to refill ourselves with it. Not only is our Moses-bread perishable, but we also are perishable. Moses-bread is not “the bread of life,” and therefore cannot keep us filled forever. We will perish from our stubborn insistence on working for everything that comes our way. Or to be perverse about it, the death that comes our way will be precisely what we have been working for. The very modus operandi we learned from Moses, that “Judeo-Christian work ethic” that we are so proud of, will be the very instrument of our own perishing. In the end, our wish will be granted. We will indeed get exactly what we worked for; no more, no less. And it will kill us.

PROGNOSIS: Living on Jesus-bread, the Bread from Heaven

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: A Fortunate Exchange of Bread
Not only does Jesus present himself as the Living Bread from heaven, but he gives himself in spite of all our efforts to resist. He may not be able to force himself on anyone in particular, but there is no way for us to stop this gift from entering into our very midst and accomplishing what it was sent to accomplish: He perishes in our place! In his sacrifice on the cross and everything leading up to that event, his ministry makes him totally reliant on our Moses-bread until it kills him-and John calls this death His Glory! All the while he insists on giving freely of himself to all those he ministers to, not according to the mode of Moses-making them work for it-but rather giving freely with no strings attached according to the mode of the new thing his heavenly Father is doing, that radically new thing that so offends us. Offend us, it may. But it nevertheless is a gift. It is poured out on us until our cup overflows. He exchanges his Living Bread for our death-dealing Moses Bread. In his glorification, which is vindicated by his rising from the empty tomb, defeating death itself, his gift to us is truly able to end our hunger and thirst forever.

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – Trusting in Jesus, the Bread Giver
“Give us this bread always,” they ask. As Jesus’ critics sometimes did in John’s Gospel (see John 11:49), they ask more than they know. For it is precisely those who are enabled by Christ to suffer the embarrassment of receiving living bread freely from him who will actually have eternal life and never be hungry or thirsty again. Furthermore, this bread is given once and lasts forever, as opposed to Moses-bread which they hoped would be given always, as in every day. In Holy Communion, we remember that once-for-all giving which we freely receive “as often as we eat of it.” And this system never fails, never gets corrupted, because it is administered by Christ, not by us.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – Thriving on Jesus-bread and Sharing it
Those who receive Jesus-bread and eternal life along with it become immediate members of Christ’s kingdom-more than members, actually. They become workers in that kingdom, sent out to help others to freely receive this wonderful gift. They may have to endure the same embarrassing response they once made, now coming from others, but since they themselves will never hunger or thirst again, they are equipped to bear this burden and keep right on giving. Not just because Jesus did, but because Jesus did for them.

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